Tucson?

Traveling and dining in other Arizona cities and beyond
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Skillet Doux
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6 years ago

I'm headed down to Tuscon on Sunday with Dr. Doux and the Doux Deux to catch Dr. Doux's sister for dinner (she's in town for about 24 hours). My first two picks are closed on Sunday (Poca Cosa, Athens), and Malaysian would be a tough sell for some of those involved, so I'm starting to focus in on 47 Scott. Anybody know how they are for kids if we eat senior citizen early? Any other places I should take a peek at?

Thanks, all!
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
DesertDoc
Posts: 84
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6 years ago

Would add Downtown Kitchen to your list for a nicer meal. Had a very good meal there before a concert at the Rialto.

Nice drink list and enjoyed the chicken and papaya salad. Also liked the short rib. The night we were there, it was raining, but it would fun to sit outside on the street. Kids would definitely work early, but it is kind of a bar scene later.
emmaAmethyst
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6 years ago

Just yesterday had a friend emphatically recommend Downtown Kitchen. They were there late on a Saturday. I haven't gotten details from her yet, but she doesn't rave about much, so it must be good. And anything that chef Janos has his hands in also ought to be damn good.

Also, I had a light early supper at Maynard's (across from Hotel Congress) last time I was in Tucson (about a year ago) -- very nice. I just had steak tartare, onion soup & a salad, but all was well balanced, & showed a deft hand in the kitchen. I put it on my list for next time.
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Skillet Doux
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6 years ago

Thanks, guys... I moved Downtown Kitchen up the list, but the rest of the crowd wasn't biting. Ditto Chef Alisah's Restaurant, which sounds like a really cool little family-run Bosnian joint -- tops of my list for next time.

Where we did end up, after we arrived at The Abbey only to discover that it was closed for Superbowl Sunday, was the suburban outpost of El Charro right across the street. Not what I had in mind, but you could do worse, I suppose. I'll say that while this may be in a diminished state, golbsalt, I enjoyed the carne seca here a helluva lot more than at Mi Nidito.
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Carne Seca
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It was actually dry, rather than that dreaded pot roast over-reduction, but a little flat -- I think if they'd really let the onion and pepper flavors develop, this could've been really good. Still, we had a decent meal. Certainly could've done worse, given that we don't really know Tucson and our first through eighth or ninth options were off the table due to the day of the week and football.

I hate to ask advice and then end up someplace completely different... just worked out that way. But these are all on the short list for next time.
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
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BarbaraToombs
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Location: Chandler/Tempe, Arizona

6 years ago

Had a great meal...albeit several years ago...at The Grill at Hacienda del Sol. Upscale, kinda pricey, great view...up in the mountains in the "ritzy" part of town.
M_L
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6 years ago

Went to Feast! Thursday night. I was pretty darn pleased with it.

http://www.eatatfeast.com/

Had the following

Housemade Ricotta with fresh sorrel and arugula, extra virgin olive oil, and pickled and fried anchovies. Risotto “croutons.”
The anchovies were awesome, but the Ricotta was a bit flat.

Lobster, Corn and Scallion Bread Pudding, served with Parmesan cream sauce.
Was really excellent, a great combo of flavors and I liked this a lot.

Nutted Wild Rice Pancakes with stir-fried vegetables and tamarind drizzle.
These were also pretty darn awesome.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin, served over Native Seeds/SEARCH Four Corners Golden Bean Cakes with seared bananas, spiced squash and haricots verts. Frangelico sauce.
This was a great dish, cooked medium rare and all around delicious. The bananas sound like an odd addition but they were really good. I liked everything about this.

Honeyed Rice Pudding with smoked almonds and caramelized roast kabocha squash.
As I know there are other Rice Pudding fans around here this was great. The honey is an awesome addition and the carmelized squash was really good.
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Pato
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6 years ago

Some notes from a few days in Tucson last week.

Pat's Drive In is awesome. This place is not for everyone, but I am sure it is for a few of you. It is all about the chili sauce. The hotdog itself is average, the service is below average, the bun is average, but when it is all put together with the chili the sum magically totals..... = great! They have been slinging dogs since 61 in Barrio Hollywood so something must be right. Give it a shot. It has become my new Poca Cosa when in Tucson. Being the total nerd that I am I actually tried to order a half gallon of the famous chili sauce. A few seconds before I ordered it a guy in the line next to me ordered a gallon to go so they were unable to fulfill my order. We watched the girl prepare the dogs through the window and she was amazingly inconsistent. Some got a lot of onions, some got none. Some got a lot of mustard, some got a ton. See what I did there? Anyway ours were perfect. We went here twice. We did split a dog at El Guero Canelo and it was really good, but we both thought we should have hit Pat up for the third time.

MyLifeOnVacation is right about Rum Runner. Fantastic store. I got a bottle of Ilegal Mezcal Reposado for 20 dollars cheaper than ordering online. My wife got the cheese she wanted, and we found a jar of Calabrian Viagru! I guess the store turns into a restaurant at night. They were getting reservation calls while we were shopping. It is called The Dish Bistro.

We had our first Eegee's. We found that mixed with tequila these are quite nice.
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BillBuitenhuys
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Location: Chandler, AZ
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6 years ago

Recent trip to Tucson with a gang of four for eating and drinking...and drinking.

The Shelter: Divey-ish bar with full on JFK regalia, disco ball, and lava lights. Ya, really. Lots of great beers on tap and they make a decent negroni. Shins, old Stones, lots of 60's garage playing.

Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails: had happy hour munchies and a drink. Nothing was very impressive.

47Scott: Went for brunch. The pork hash and eggs was very good. A few locals told us it's better for brunch/lunch than it is for dinner. $2 mimosas and bellinis at brunch. Served in a small coupe but just what we needed.

Scott&Co: Cocktail nerdvana. Everything about this place is perfect.

Reilly's Pizza: Excellent thin crust pizza and very very good cocktails. Good selection of beer on tap too.

Time Market: little euro-style market with dried meats, cheeses, dried goods, pasta, oddities, beer, wine (many KLWM imports)...all quality stuff. Home made bread from wood fired oven comes out around 10am every day. Very good pizza. Nice selection of beer on tap.

Maynards Market and Kitchen: Upscale restaurant from the Hotel Congress gang. The meals were had were all pretty ambitious and partially delivered. Cocktails were watery. I wouldn't go back.

Penca: Incredible find thanks to a local cocktail guru. Mexico City style tapas and munchies. Superb salsas. Amazingly complex cocktails.

Tap and Bottle: Sleek pub serving up 15-20 craft brews, many local. Worth going if you love beer.
M_L
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5 years ago

Just read this http://aht.seriouseats.com/archives/201 ... izona.html

Now I have a new place to go the next time I am in Tucson for work! Though the telera (sp) bread gives me pause as I want a bun with more substance...
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Skillet Doux
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5 years ago

I consider last month's trip to Tucson both a huge success, and also a failure of sorts. I say a failure of sorts, because I'd planned on a massive Sonoran hot dog crawl. I marked nine on my map. I planned, realistically, to hit seven. But due to my inability to only eat half a dog at each place as per the original plan, I threw in the towel after five. But I call the trip a huge success because despite falling short of that lofty goal, I feel like I learned pretty much all I need to know. My experience with Sonoran dogs in Tucson is, admittedly, limited, but even so, I feel pretty confident that I've nailed down three guiding truisms... which I'll get to after some of the details.

The dog crawl was bookended by stops at Little Cafe Poca Cosa (another post for another time, but suffice it to say that the chile Colorado was dynamite), and to set the baseline, The Cosmic Jester, his roommate, and I started with the brick and mortar heavy hitters -- BK, and El Güero Canelo. First, BK:
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Dog @ BK
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This is pretty much what I've come to expect -- the dog with bacon, beans, tomatoes, onions, mustard and mayonnaise, jalapeño salsa, and a griddled güero chile on the side. In fact, I was surprised by the consistency of toppings across all five joints, but more on that later. It's what you expect. Pillowy soft, sweet bun, that mix of bean and bacon and spice, with just enough mayo and mustard to make cultures collide... it's good. And I wish I'd noticed that they had a second condiment bar near the satellite grill up front before I had finished the first dog, because that's the one big point that I think BK has going for it -- unusual toppings. There's the standard condiment bar with the sliced canned mushrooms, shredded cheese, watery avocado sauce, etc., but at BK there's a second condiment bar with things like finely diced jicama in a slightly spicy, creamy sauce, minced sauteed mushrooms, and a few other unusual toppings. This, I dug, and for this, I give BK full marks.
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Dog @ El Güero Canelo
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But then there's the other heavy hitter, El Güero Canelo, and all were in agreement that while we dug the expanded topping options at BK, at its core EGC serves a better dog -- meatier, better quality sausage (relative scale, here), crispier bacon -- the base is stronger. And on that basis, I can kind of see what inspires the endless BK or EGC battle. And I choose... neither.

But first a stop at El Manantial, one of the three roadside carts we'd check out.
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El Manantial
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Let it be known that the carts are everywhere. There are parts of town we drove through where it seemed like there was at least one on every block. And they all look like this -- a portable cart on a trailer, some kind of sunshade or pop-up tent, some folding tables and chairs, and a pile of boxes and coolers.
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Dog @ El Manantial
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El Manantial's dog was similar to BK's and EGC's... similar enough that I started to wonder if I'd made a mistake in planning to consume seven of these. But this was my introduction to the bacon-wrapped and cheese-stuffed güero chile, which was a kind of fun departure from the plain ones. Personally speaking, more diverting than a selling point, but YMMV. Another solid entry. But it was the next stop where I think the overarching law that governs Sonoran hot dog quality made itself known to me.
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Ruiz Hot Dogs
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Ruiz Hot Dogs. Another vacant, dusty corner, another Sonoran hot dog cart. This one a little more haphazard-looking than most.
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The Fellas
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You know the scene in Blade Runner where Deckard gets noodles from a street vendor? This is what Blade Runner would have looked like if Ridley Scott had had the foresight to realize that it would be Mexican culture working its way into our street scenes rather than Japanese. But hey, it was the '80s. Anyway, I got a pretty good shot of the prep area here as well:
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Dog Prep
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This seems pretty typical of the roadside carts -- griddle for the dogs and chiles, small cold table for the toppings, and a stack of buns on the side. But here is where the enormous chasm between Sonoran hot dogs that are fine and Sonoran hot dogs that are awesome became abundantly clear:
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Dog @ Ruiz Hot Dogs
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Griddled bun. Seriously, that's it. And it's all the freaking difference in the world. Warm and toasty and crisp, it takes the good and makes it awesome. The bun at Ruiz was griddled to a golden brown all the way around, and the importance of this cannot possibly be overstated. After this, there is no going back. Bonus: the jalapeño salsa actually had some kick here, and the güero chile was my favorite of the day, with a really heavy hit of salt and lime. Cover your ears, Lunchbox.......... I dug it even more than the bacon-wrapped chiles.
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El Sinaloense
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Thankfully, El Sinaloense was no letdown. By now, you should be sensing a theme when it comes to the look of these places...
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Prep Action
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...and the prep area...
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Dog @ Sinaloense
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...and the dog, which got even a little more char than Ruiz's. To me, Ruiz vs. El Sinaloense was a toss-up, though the fact that I now had Sonoran hot dogs backed up into my sinuses may have dulled my enthusiasm for the last entrant somewhat. I think the chile at Ruiz may have been the tiebreaker for me. Of course, El Sinaloense brushed on a nice, healthy dose of butter before griddling the bun, so... tough call. But this was, in terms of preparation, very similar to Ruiz, and in terms of composition, almost exactly the same as everywhere else.

So here are the three lessons I learned.

The Toppings Are All The Same
This really surprised me. I thought there would be some kind of variation. But no, with the exception of BK's extended topping bar, the uniformity of toppings from place to place was remarkable. The prep may differ, some of the ingredients may be of slightly higher quality at some joints, but basically, they're all serving the exact same thing.

The Griddled Bun Is EVERYTHING
This was by far the most important lesson learned on this trip. I'm sure that squishy, spongy style has its fans, but if you ask me, there is a huge gaping chasm between the dogs with griddled buns and those without. The griddled bun is just right. I now have little desire for Sonoran dogs without griddled buns, and I really want to find someplace up here that does them this way.

The Big Boys Suck
Relatively speaking, of course. Everywhere you hear, it's all about BK and EGC, BK and EGC, BK and EGC, the best places in Tucson. Which is best? Well, say the wrong one and you've got a fight. But it's BK or EGC. And this is so not the case. Really, I've got about zero desire to go back to either. Which isn't to say that I didn't enjoy their dogs, but it's just no contest for me at all. IMO, if you aren't griddling that bun to a deep, golden brown, you're making a second-rate Sonoran dog. I don't know how they cemented their position as the two dominant players in the Tucson Sonoran hot dog scene, but I think it's completely unwarranted. Get thee to a roadside stand that griddles the bun posthaste.

So now the big question remains....... where do I find a griddled-bun Sonoran hot dog in Phoenix?

BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs
www.bktacos.com
5118 S. 12th Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85706
520.295.0105

El Güero Canelo
www.elguerocanelo.com
5201 S. 12th Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85706
520.295.9005

El Manantial
NW corner of S. Park Avenue & E. 36th Street
Tucson, AZ 85713

Ruiz Hot Dogs
NW corner of S. 6th Avenue & W. 22nd Street
Tucson, AZ 85701

El Sinaloense #5
SE corner of E. Lee Street & N. Alvernon Way
Tucson, AZ 85712
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
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ScottofStrand
Posts: 624
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Mesa, AZ

5 years ago

Great post Dom! I did the back to back BK vs EGC last time I was in Tuscon, and you're right. They're almost identical. Hard to choose between those two, but it seems I need to hit the carts next time around! I'll also say, I remember the Beef Cheek Tacos at BK Taco being pretty great.
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Lunchbox
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5 years ago

Epic post... I covered my ears in all the appropriate places...

I was down in Tucson last week and tried to hit up a place in Oro Valley for a Sonoran Dog (admittedly a Mexican restaurant) and they were out of hot dogs! So I'm still hungry for one! This post did not help.
-- LBX

Instagram: @zachary.garcia

Twitter: @zach_garcia
sinosoul
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5 years ago

damn dude, that looks friggin amazing. me wants.
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andrewknoc
Posts: 88
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Location: 85020

5 years ago

BillBuitenhuys wrote:Penca: Incredible find thanks to a local cocktail guru. Mexico City style tapas and munchies. Superb salsas. Amazingly complex cocktails.
We're taking a quick trip down there next weekend. Reservation made; hopes elevated. We're planning on drinking a rather lot, all told.
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BillBuitenhuys
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Location: Chandler, AZ
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5 years ago

andrewknoc wrote:We're taking a quick trip down there next weekend. Reservation made; hopes elevated. We're planning on drinking a rather lot, all told.
I keep getting super Penca reports. You should have no shortages of places to imbibe downtown these days. Please let us all know what you find down there.
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andrewknoc
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Location: 85020

5 years ago

We postponed our trip! We're still going, we're just not sure when with all the festivals and various goings-on this fall. :(
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BillBuitenhuys
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Location: Chandler, AZ
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4 years ago

In the spirit of the PFN Food Map, here is the Tucson Taco Map from Andi Berlin of the Arizona Daily Star

Quite impressive!
mwest
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Joined: 5 years ago

4 years ago

Went down to Tucson a couple weekends ago, this time for Parent's weekend at U of A so a few different choices than we'd typically make with our boys in tow.

Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
101 E. Pennington St. Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 882-5550

http://reillypizza.com/#splash-container

Good pizzas and cocktails and they have a cool basement bar downstairs.

http://www.5pointstucson.com/ is a breakfast and lunch spot on the south side of town that was pretty impressive to us. Quality ingredients and solid preparation and its was fairly quick, too. Clearly people come from all over town to eat there as its in a kinda funky part of town, it seems, but its a hipster-in-a-cool-way spot. And we escaped the huge crowds of other parents that packed the downtown all weekend.

Didn't make it to Falora Pizza or Sidecar Bar, but will have to hit those next time.

http://www.falora.com/

http://www.barsidecar.com/locations/
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